My real story: Justine W

Age: 29

Education: Bachelor Degree

Current position: Assistant Human Resources Manager, Park Hyatt Sydney

Number of years at the hotel? 9 years

What does my role entail? Recruitment! So simply put, I’m the guy responsible for attracting talent to the hotel; I see the process through from start to finish. I review applications and conduct interviews. People often liken my role to being a judge on the X-factor, but as much as I like to believe my role is as glamorous as the X-factor judges, it also includes very important admin tasks. I conduct monthly WHS audits and facilitate training sessions for all hotel staff. Another part of my job is communicating with hotel schools and universities in the hope to place hospitality students in industry roles, which often excites student’s desire to have a career in hospitality. I find this part of my job very rewarding, even fun at times, and I believe we all need a little bit of fun in our careers because as the old adage goes; ‘all fun and no play, makes Jack a dull boy’.

How I got my start in the hotel industry: My path into hospitality was quite different and somewhat unexpected. I worked casually in hospitality while I was studying Digital Media – graphic design and animation (and yes I can hear the questions of ‘why’ echo through the silence, trust me I did not know either).  After I finished my uneventful pursuit of the Digital world, I took a year off to regroup, all while continuing to work in hospitality. I then decided to follow my passion; I enrolled in The Hotel School Sydney! It was then that a friend recommended me for a part-time position at Park Hyatt Sydney and so you could say the rest is history!

Why do you like working in Hotels? I like being involved in the constant activity of a 24 hour business. The hotel becomes your home and the team becomes your family, I’ve heard this sentiment from many others too. More than anything, it’s fun.

What surprised you about working in hotels? It always comes as a surprise to encounter the amount of support that hotels offer in the way of catapulting staff their staff to attaining their personal career goals. And now within my position as Assistant HR manager, I ensure to ask staff what their career goals are so I can ensure to help steer them in the direction of achieving them.

What my career has looked like to date: It has been an extraordinary journey! I started off as a bar, food and beverage and gaming attendant.  Before long I began my part-time role as a Guest Service Officer in Communications. After graduating from University, I was promoted to Team Leader of the Communications department. During an office refurbishment I was afforded the opportunity to work with the HR department, mostly helping with recruitment and training. Little did I know, I would soon be made Team Leader and it would only be a matter of months until I was handed the grand opportunity to move into HR. After a year and half, I was promoted to Assistant HR Manager, my current role. Had someone told the 21 year old me I would be the Assistant HR Manager for the Park Hyatt Sydney, I certainly would not have believed them, which also goes to show we are only as limited as our imagination.

During your time at this Hotel, what has been your proudest moment? For me, gut feeling comes into play when making certain decisions, especially when hiring.  Sometimes you go with your instinct over logic and take a chance on someone who may not have presented themselves as the best candidate, or their nervousness took over in an interview, but you still see something in them. My proudest moments are always when I see them realising their potential and going from strength to strength, progressing within the hotel. Sometimes, all someone needs is an opportunity, and they will prove to you that they deserved it.

What has been your greatest professional achievement to date? Being awarded ‘Heart of House’ Associate of the Year has been one of the greatest achievements of not only my career, but also my life. It came as a grand surprise, one I never would have anticipated. To be recognised amongst a team made up of so many exceptional individuals was an honour that deepened my passion for what I do and reaffirmed that I am where I am supposed to be.

Where do you wish to go from here? My current goal is to take every learning opportunity to expand my skill set and strive to become an effective HR Manager in the not so distant future. My dream is to be an accomplished female leader in the hospitality industry and set an example for both men and women in the industry. The ultimate position would be Director of Human Resources for the Park Hyatt.

What challenges do you face in this role? Keeping up with manning demands is a challenge. Hospitality and tourism is widely known and accepted for having a ‘turnover culture’ with short tenure periods (say 18 months to two years) being the norm. Finding those people that view hospitality as their career rather than a ‘pass-through’ job on their way to other careers, those who are committed to adapting to factors such as seasonality of demand, shift work and long hours can be difficult. It’s common to lose staff to the lure of the corporate 9-5 world. Another large part of turnover is visa restrictions.  On another level, I am challenged in my role when I am faced with employees’ personal problems. On any given day you could become a relationship counsellor, grief counsellor, mediator, or just a sounding board for someone who needs a kind ear to listen to a personal trauma.  If I know someone is having a hard time, it’s hard not to take these worries home with me.

Why do you like working in the accommodation industry? Every day is different. You care about the guests and in turn it gives the work you do a lot of meaning and satisfaction. Working for an internationally recognised brand allows you to connect with colleagues around the world, creating a great sense of pride and belonging.

What message do you have to tell others about working in the accommodation industry? There is never a dull moment in the hotel industry. There are endless career opportunities for progression and international exposure.

What advice would you give to people considering a career in Hotels? I say, get involved! The more you understand the hotel operations, the culture and the dynamics of the team, the more success you will have in meeting the diverse needs of the industry. Having refined communication skills is vital to building strong relationships with managers and department heads so everything runs smoothly, and if you don’t think you are a great communicator, a month in the industry will change that pronto.  I sincerely believe if you love people, hard work and the opportunity to succeed then the accommodation industry is the perfect place to be!

Have you travelled as part of your career in Hotels? I haven’t travelled for work purposes, but I have been fortunate to stay with Hyatt properties using the benefit of associate complimentary accommodation. I’ve visited Melbourne, Perth, Hawaii, Seoul, Bali, Hong Kong, San Diego, New York, Tokyo, Hakone, Osaka and Kyoto. Not only is it an amazing opportunity to experience the service as a guest, but it’s also gives us a chance to connect with colleagues from another part of the world. I have attended events and career expos for various hotel schools and universities around Sydney and the Blue Mountains and even had the opportunity to speak as a guest lecturer at The Hotel School Sydney. This lecture was about interview skills and preparation, and it was very rewarding to give back to the Uni that I attended.

Have you met anyone famous during your career in Hotels? Hollywood actors, musicians, comedians, TV personalities and even royalty, I’ve met them all. Often there is a lot of media speculation about where these people are staying so it’s fun to know some insider secrets.

Can you bust any Hotel career myths? The hotel industry isn’t a ‘pass through’ career; there are many opportunities to grow and learn, countless opportunities for professional career progression and endless avenues to lead individuals into an international career.

What training have you received from your employer as part of your professional development? I’ve undertaken various training including Customer service, Service recovery, Effective interviewing techniques, Leadership sessions, Hyatt department trainer certification courses, and Hyatt group trainer certification courses.

Tell us about one of your best Hotel experiences? Celebrating our successes as a hotel and rewarding our team is one of the greatest joys of the job. One month the hotel attained the highest guest satisfaction score we ever achieved, ranking us number 1 out of 36 Park Hyatts in the world, and ranking us 3rd out of almost 600 Hyatt properties worldwide.  As a creative way to celebrate this achievement, we bought hundreds of cupcakes and created little thank-you notes on the end of toothpicks to stick into the cupcakes. The HR team loaded the cupcakes on a decorated kitchen trolley, the “HR Energy Cart”, and delivered them to all the hotel departments to say thank you for their hard work.  The reaction from all the employees was incredible and the “HR Energy Cart” has since become a tradition to celebrate achievements, awards and to randomly say ‘thanks’.

Do you manage people? If yes, what is that like? I’ve had the pleasure of managing new HR team members. I enjoy passing on my knowledge and their motivation is what drives me too, it’s very rewarding.

What skills have you learnt on the job? I have learnt nearly everything I know on the job! I came into HR through hotel operations, so had no prior HR experience. Specifically, I have learnt things like training facilitation, interview skills, presentation skills, budgeting, payroll systems, manpower planning, industrial relations and event planning.

What are your working hours like? I start around 9am and try my best to finish at 5:30pm. Of course being a busy 24-hour business there are times where I work late. We also open the HR office every second Saturday, which as it is important for us to touch base with the employees who mainly work on weekends, so I work the occasional Saturday.

What’s the pay like? The pay is below average for similar roles in other industries, but there are additional benefits that have a lot of value. For example, suits provided and laundered, complimentary daily meals, discount and complimentary accommodation worldwide.